How to Buy Wines Online and Game the System​​



Headquartered in a small New York town, lot 18 was one of the first retailers to devise a system to develop a personalized wine profile.

In 2013, the company was relaunched as “Tasting Room by Lot18” and is now more of a wine club than a retailer.


Type: Wine Club Membership, personalized profile
Size: over 100 wines
Focus: all major wine regions, Basic Types
Specialties: Custom-made, artsy labels $13 to $20
Shipping: $19.99 per case
Discounts:  20%-30%, but it sets the base prices

Pros: inexpensive, entertaining themes & personal interaction
Cons: profiling system less than perfect. Private labels. Average quality custom-made wines

Rating: 3 stars

You may have seen ads that read like an article featuring Tasting Room. It frequently runs on Huffingtonpost and several other major sites. The ads tout this site as not only the fastest growing but also the best at sending wines tailored to each members’ taste.

Creating a wine profile begins with a so-called tasting kit, six wines, at the low price of $9.95 and all in small, 187 ml bottles. That’s the same size used by airlines for many years.

You rate the 6 wines, and Tastingroom will begin to 
develop a tasting profile for
 you based on your initial ratings.

Then, here’s the deal, it sends you a case of wine every 3 months. That’s the main option. You can also specify 2 bottles a month or six every 2 months. And you can specify red or white only.

The wines sent are chosen to suit the taster’s profile. The more wines you buy and review, the more precise will be the wine selections.

Or at least that is the theory behind this personal profile concept. 

As for prices, the story is that most wines are worth $20 but are offered at $13 on average.  Each case runs $149 plus $19.99 for shipping. A 6-bottle shipment will cost you roughly half that.

Since several other sites try to learn your taste preferences and tailor wines to your taste, let’s explore this approach.

The other popular sites are winc, firsleaf and nakedwines.

Most begin with a questionnaire asking you things like how do you like your coffee, your preference in chocolate, and your favorite fruit or berry...or similar basic questions.

One major weakness with the wine sample approach of Tastingroom is whether or not the wines are typical for their style.

The 6 sample wines try to isolate or elevate basic components of sweetness, bitterness and body or texture. They are more like lab samples than real wine.

Here’s the fundamental problem: when dealing with
components like alcohol, level of sweetness, bitterness, acidity, not all people perceive these elements at the same level.

 In fact, rarely do two people agree on components, especially sweetness and bitterness.

Behind nakedwines.com 

NakedWines may well be the biggest, most successful wine club. But it is also not your typical wine club.

Some might find it a little weird, and not just the name.

Founded by British entrepreneur Rowan Gormley in December 2008, Naked Wines operates as a crowdfunded business that has grown to over 300,000 subscribers.

Here's the PR stuff: "These subscribers, known as “angels,” help fund more than 130 independent winemakers across 14 countries in exchange for access to exclusive wines at reduced prices."

It was purchased in 2015 by Majestic Wines, the mega UK superstore for mega bucks. Majestic Wine trades from more than 200 outlets with 640,000 active customers.

Founder Roman Gormley is no newcomer to online sales and wine clubs. He was a force behind Virgin Wines which was part of Virgin Air. He was pushed out at some point by the UK based Laithwaite’s wine company.

Don't know any of the details, but it is interesting to note that the Laithwaite family now operates a major online wine retail
site and wine club in the
US and Australia.

Nakedwine’s USA division has an office and warehouse in southern Napa.

But let’s enjoy a WTF pause here.

How does crowdfunding work, you ask? Well, each month subscribers deposit $40 into their account and they can apply funds from that account to purchase wines.

Before you say, “This is stupid,” read on because there are a few steps along the way.

The first step is to sign up for the introductory 6-wine pack which costs $59.99 and includes shipping. 

About Us

We are seeking the best wines available at the best prices.  And you dont have to leave home or the office.

Whether you are new to wine
or a long-time collector, whether you are on a modest budget or are among the one-percenters, this Guide offers lots of good stuff:

Best deals of the day
Helpful background information
 Insider tips
 Money-saving buying strategies
Ratings & evaluations of the major sites
Frequent updates

Weekend Blowout Winners

For online wine sellers, Memorial weekend is like the first stage of the Triple Crown, with Fathers Day and July 4th to follow.

And as the long Memorial Weekend was getting underway, there was a lot of hyping and prancing around before the race began.

The dust is now settling. Which websites were better at it than others?
Which ones made a serious effort to offer new wines and attractive prices?

While everyone else was at the beach, tweeting, or walking the dog, we followed the major wine sites to identify the real winners.

Here are the top Memorial weekend online wine stars


According to handicapper Jimmy the Grape, this was the pre-event favorite. After an early technical glitch out of the gate, this site hit its stride and by the final turn, it never looked back to emerge as the top choice.

The usual offerings were greatly expanded and the discounts ranged from 25% to 70%.
It augmented its outstanding roster of under the radar wines from the West Coast  with wines from Meyer Family, Goosecross and Talisman Pinot Noir,
Imports were led by a super French Rose and 2013 Meursault Rouge, Pierre Matrot, Cote d’Or,  $19.99.

2. www.wiredforwine.com

A real longshot, wiredforwines was a strong finisher with an impressive array of white wines and sparkling wines. Especially liked the 2016 Toutigeac Bordeaux Blanc at $13.99 and a 2016 Rioja for $12.97. Nicely priced Sancerre and Rias Baixas are tempting deals. For high end fare, hard to beat the
2016 Arnot-Roberts Watson Chardonnay, Napa Valley.
Owned by self proclaimed foodies operating out of New Jersey, this site has come to life recently. Best on imported wines. Look for good deals in the Under $20 category and check out its Most Popular sellers.

3. (Photo finish too close to call)

Sure, the spy thing is silly for wine though it works (for now) for Trump. This remains a go-to site if you love Pinot Noir, Zin, and Chardonnay from Sonoma County. But it also manages to pick up a hidden gem or two from Napa. Recent offering of the Secret Rows Sauvignon Blanc for $14.99 confirms this is a much-improved site for high quality wines at lovely prices.
This may seem surprising but this site recently shows exceptional versatility with good deals on McLaren Vale Grenache, a Paso Robles Syrah at 50% off and Phelps Chardonnay.

3. www.cawineclub.com

One of the oldest online wine sellers, the California Wine Club was a sentimental favorite viewed as a real workhorse. But while others were saying “Stock up here and Save,” this club was letting the super deals speak for themselves. Specializing in small, family owned California wineries, it stretched Memorial Day offers through June 16 and offered a huge list of wines at 25% below the already discounted prices.

By adding $1 case shipping, it came from way back in the pack to finish a strong third. The following are our favorite wines to stock up and save:

2016 Castoro Cellars Estate Viognier, Paso Robles $9.00
2012 Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee, Santa Ynez, $12.75
2013 Bien Nacido Vineyards Syrah, Santa Maria Valley $40
2014 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir, Rincon Vyd, $32.
2015 Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, $34

The rest of the pack:

www.vivino.com.com showed well and made a late move with a deeply discounted Steltzner Cabernet and a Howell Mountain Merlot. But why so many heavy reds weighing it down as June approaches? And it needs to tamp down the batshit hype and maybe not associate every wine somehow with a winemaker who once made a 100 point wine..

Savvy Online Wine Shopping 101

Real Discounts or Bogus Prices?

Are Wine Clubs forYou?

Trending Winery Direct

Looking for A Special Wine Club?

Here is A Hidden Gem in the Silicon Valley Area:

Sarah’s Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation

Quick View:

Strong on small-batch Pinot Noir, Estate Chardonnay, and several Estate Rhone wines. A true artisan winery.

Pinot Noirs from 5-6 appellations….will please any Pinot fanatic.
Cozy and friendly, very modest facility with tons of country charm.

Members receive 3 wines 4 times a year and can select the type: red, white or mixed.

Prices are relatively modest, ranging from $20 for a few white wines to $48 for the high end Pinots.

Members receive a 25% discount on shipped wines; 20% off all other wines.

Wine tastings for members and your guests are comped.

Wonderful offering of tasting room exclusives….small batch wines.

Wine country feel as visitors pass through the small 28-acre estate vineyard as they meander up to the tasting center.

In the familiar digital world of coupons, member discounts and promo codes, we still need to ask ourselves: “How can online wine dealers knock 30%-70% off retail prices? I
That’s a reasonable question to raise and it’s normal to be a little skeptical.

It is also normal to wonder if the wines fell off the back of the truck, were left sitting on the Houston docks in July, are total crap, or are truly a treasure trove discovered in a dark cellar.

Here are several reasonable explanations...                

Over the last three years I’ve been tracking many online wine clubs as part of my reporting on online wine retailers. As the direct to consumer clubs from wineries continue to grow, we are seeing an increase in independent clubs being offered by publications like the Wall Street Journal and airlines along with totally independent e-commerce businesses like the Wine of the Month Club, Vinesse, and Winc.

The Yelp-like reviews for these e-commerce only wine clubs are mixed and a few are downright hostile. 

More About Us

Point Scores: Helpful or Pointles

As I see it, this Guide is a cross between a website and a newsletter.

Given the fast-changing nature of the subject, it will be regularly revised and updated.

With wine, there is no such thing as a gifted palate or a natural born taster. 

There are no right or wrong answers about what to drink and when to drink a wine you like.

More expensive wines are not necessarily better than cheaper wines.

 Older wines are not better than young wines, and there never has been any system devised that can guarantee wine quality.


​​Once upon a time in a kingdom far away, only Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator dueled over which one could score the most wines 90 points or more.

Then along came Stephen Tanzer, The Wine Enthusiast, Vinous and others to jump on the 100 point scoring system with a steady barrage of 90 point scores in their publications.  The result is total chaos.

Final Answer:

Most often POINTLESS

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